Scripture: John 20:19-23 (The Message)Later on that day, the disciples had gathered together, but, fearful of the Jews, had locked all the doors in the house. Jesus entered, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.” Then he showed them his hands and side.
The disciples, seeing the Master with their own eyes, were exuberant. Jesus repeated his greeting: “Peace to you. Just as the Father sent me, I send you.”
Then he took a deep breath and breathed into them. “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he said. “If you forgive someone’s sins, they’re gone for good. If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?”
Reflection:They will know that we are Christians by the love that we show for all of Creation, yes? They will know that we are who we say we are because we take clear stands against poverty and racism, correct? Even we ourselves will know more fully who we are as we talk and vote and write checks and letters and sit next to a hospital bed, all the while hopeful that we are embodying God’s love, no? I understand who I am as one who tries to follow Jesus by the “how” of my life. I know that I am Christian by God’s love flowing out of me.
Earlier in this gospel, just before he is arrested, Jesus promises that he will deliver peace – but not like the world gives it. Here we see what he meant. Into the midst of any fear that we cling to behind closed doors, He comes with real peace: wounds that remind us that He goes with us always even through death. Into the midst of judgment and seething plans for vengeance, He comes with real peace: permission to release grudges and then allow forgiving grace to fill the void. Into the midst of steamy deliberations about anything other than God’s love, He comes with real peace: Spirit.
The world needs the Church to recommit to new life in the wake of Easter on the streets. My hope is that I remain mindful of the gift of Christ of real peace, that I continue to inhale Christ’s gift so that I may exhale the same. I hope I will treasure God’s grace for me, that I will heed Christ’s reminder that I am sent just as He was/is. Sure, we who follow Christ will wind up in strange places and likely with scars of our own. But if the choice is between that and fear behind closed doors, I’m hitting the streets on a quest for real peace.
Prayer:Keep me, Lord, from hunkering down and hanging on to familiar and debilitating fear: of “other,” of change, of success. Breath Spirit into me, into your Church, as strength for delivering love into the most challenging places. Help us to release old hurts and grudges so that your love may flow through us as new life, Easter glory made very real.
Rev. Erick Olson is pastor of Church of Christ, Congregational, in Norfolk, CT.
April 19, 2017